Story by Lindsey Coleman, Staff writer
Murray resident Traci Lawrence is opening a residential mentoring facility in June for women and children called The Way of Wellness with her years of experience and passion in nonprofits organizations.
The facility will serve those who are homeless or victims of domestic violence in Calloway County and target five areas of wellness: physical, mental, spiritual, social and financial.
“We chose the title of a mentoring facility instead of a shelter because sometimes when you think of shelter, you think of victimization,” Lawrence said. “We don’t want these women and children to live in that identity that they are victims. We want to help them rise up out of that.”
The Way of Wellness will provide safe housing, food, clothes, transportation and counseling for clients, while they either work, go to school or volunteer in the community. Up to 12 clients can be served at a time.
Lawrence said she is in the process of building a staff. A counselor, case manager and a support staff will be available to help transport, help with parenting, cooking, cleaning and teaching life skills.
Lawrence said clients can stay for up to nine months and will work with staff members to set personal goals. When clients first come, they set three goals and meet with staff every two weeks to assess if they have met those goals. She said the staff wants to help identify roadblocks and also celebrate victory.
“It’s just to hold them accountable and to know that they have somebody on their team,” Lawrence said.
She heard about a friend suffering abuse when she was around 8 years old, and from this story, Lawrence said a passion was ignited within her to serve women and children facing hardship.
Since starting the Lighthouse Children’s Home in Mayfield, Kentucky, in 1999, Lawrence said her concern for children has grown. She said while the children are at The Way of Wellness, they have a safe place, food to eat, encouragement, love and hope.
“There’s nothing worse to me than child abuse. What did a little 3-year-old kid do to get beaten or burned?” Lawrence said. “I think kids deserve a chance and a safe home.”
Ultimately, Lawrence said her faith drove her decision to start The Way of Wellness. She said the organization is not religious, but they are faith-based. Meeting the basic needs when no one else will is a picture of her faith.
“That’s why we’re called the way of wellness: Jesus is the way,” Lawrence said. “Abundant life is wellness where you’re physically, mentally, spiritually, socially and financially well—not perfect, but sufficient.”
Barbara Brittain, resident of Murray, is one of seven people on The Way of Wellness board. As a CPA, she said she brings a financial expertise to the board.
“I truly feel that this is a calling,” Brittain said. “I feel like this is what we’re supposed to be doing right now.”
She said it was Lawrence’s brainchild, but when she heard about the opportunity to serve on the board, she knew this was where she needed to be.
“Definitely we want to be helping these women who either have been abused, who are homeless or whatever, but the fact of the matter is the children are involved, and that’s what touches my heart,” Brittain said. “I want to help those mommas to be better mothers, and I want to help them to get a good start and to be able to take care of themselves so they can take care of their children.”
She said they have had a yard sale and bake sale, and many people have donated furniture and their time to renovate the house. In the future they will be having another yard sale, a Mr. and Miss Freedom Fest competition, a 5K race and a gala dinner and auction.
“There’s not many things that have really touched my heart in the way this has, and I feel it’s a chance for me to make a difference, maybe if it is just a little difference in someone’s life.” Brittain said. “I’m willing to do whatever I need to do.”
Amanda Smith also serves on the board and helps with fundraising events. She said she helped with the decision-making involved in buying the property and with deciding what rules and expectations they will have for the residents.
“I love that we will not only provide them with shelter, but with spiritual guidance and advice for healthy living,” Smith said. “They will be expected to work and maintain the facility. The children will go to school. It truly is a hand up, not a hand out.”